Long Way Down - Thoughts on The Evil Within

Foreword: I don't talk much about the story or plot, so there are very few spoilers found within.

Now here's a blog post I'm extremely excited to write about. As you might be able to tell, detectives, I'll be talking about The Evil Within, a game developed by Tango Gameworks and published by Bethesda.

For those who aren't aware of what The Evil Within is, it is a pseudo-survival horror game in lieu of The Last of Us. A pseudo-survival horror game created by the father of Resident Evil, Shinji Mikami.

Some of you may not be aware of who he is, and that's okay. OH WAIT NO IT'S NOT. He's the mastermind behind Resident Evil and Resident Evil 4. Of God Hand and Vanquish. And that's just his directorial roles. He's been the producer and executive producer on numerous titles. He's an industry veteran and also a badass motherfucker.

Don't believe me? Take a look.

Exclusive behind the scenes photo of The Evil Within development

Well if that doesn't put it in perspective then I don't know what will. Mikami gets what Mikami wants.

Mikami formed Tango Gameworks on March 1st, 2010 with a staff of 13. After some time their staff increased to 65 and they were soon bought out by ZeniMax Media, parent company of Bethesda Softworks. Two years later, in 2012, they had finally announced their newest(And so far only game), The Evil Within. And with a segue like that, let's move onto the game!

When The Evil Within was announced so long ago, I wasn't really interested. I consider the "horror" game market to be saturated with games that I just do not enjoy playing. The outlier is Dead Space, which I enjoyed the gameplay enough of to want to continue playing, but ended up being such a pussy that I was too scared to continue. That changed with Dead Space 2, but then that game, while incredibly fun, was extremely predictable with the enemies. It was a really beautiful game which featured one of the best lighting engines I've seen in years. The way the light just bounced off of things, the way the darkness flowed, the way shadows looked. I love that game. But again, not scary. Then Dead Space 3 decided "Hey guys, know how everyone loves that this game is about DEAD. SPACE. What if we went onto a planet like a fucking idiot and then ruined what little interest people do have in this game?" and somehow that shit got approved. Dead Space 3 was a necromorph of its former self and had nothing to really offer except a shitty checkpoint system often forcing you to retread 20 or more minutes of ground just to get back to where you were. It was brutal and unforgiving, but not for the reasons you would expect out of a "horror" game. After a point, the only horror was realizing, shit, this game STILL isn't over!

Given, I haven't really played many horror games. I usually play them, become disinterested in the actual gameplay and quit more often than I find a game that I enjoy and want to continue being scared through. I have for instance played every numbered Resident Evil game(And the all time best game ever made Resident Evil Revelations), but the same thing happens every time: I play for some time, get the piss scared out of me and quit and then move onto the next Resident Evil game. I was never fond of the tank controls and when I try to come back to them now, I just find them outdated and unplayable. I've made my peace that I missed the boat on the classic Resident Evil games. I've dealt with that internal struggle and accepted it. But of course that's not counting Resident Evil 4 Because everything changed with Resident Evil 4...


THIS! This Resident Evil 4. You know, the real one... shudder...
Resident Evil 4 was the first RE game I actually completed. But it's beyond that I completed it, I fell in love with the gameplay. Ammo is hard to find, enemies can outnumber and surround you forcing you to play smart. It was mainstream appeal at first sight. I couldn't get enough of it. Playing smart, outrunning the chainsaw fuckers and upgrading your weapons. It was awesome. Not to mention you get to fight a thing called El Gigante.

I hear they call him El Gigante because "Holy fucking shit look at the size of that fucking thing fuck" was too long to fit on his birth certificate.
I remember my favorite, and usually everyone else's favorite Resident Evil 4 moment is when you have the opportunity to barricade doors and windows and defend yourself against waves and waves of hostile fuckers who want to cut you with all kinds of rusty shit. Either near the beginning of the game or with Luiz later on. There was something magical about it. Hearing the loud crash of a window, making it abundantly clear that the enemies are putting ladders to the windows. It was pure panic and how fun that was.

I imagine I'm preaching to the choir here about how great Resident Evil 4 was, but it's true, I love that game. So when The Evil Within was announced, and all I heard was "FROM THE CREATOR OF RESIDENT EVIL 4" all I could think of was... Nope. Not interested. I've heard that pitch before. It's asinine. You're playing off of the fame of something he did 10 years ago to get interest in something he's making today. Sure, Shinji Mikami is still a fairly big name, but he's made some bad stuff in the past too. In fact, I was more interested in Alien: Isolation than I was The Evil Within. So imagine my reaction when I ended up strongly disliking Alien: Isolation and ending up loving The Evil Within.

No blog is complete without custom banners of some sort! Even weird hipstery pop-art banners!

The first thing right off the bat for me was the mystery. The appeal of not having everything crammed down your throat immediately like you see so many times in video games today. It let a simmer come to a boil, and then simmer back down again. Constantly pushing and pulling on your headstrings, your intrinsic curiosity to learn more. STEM? Ruvik? Krimson City!? I am so. fucking. in.

The game begins with you in control of Detective Sebastian Castellanos who's being driven to a just called-in case that's developing at Beacon Mental Hospital. A bunch of units were called in but haven't called back out, so you and your crew, Detective Joseph Oda and Rookie Detective Julie Kidman are on the move to find out exactly why that is.

Your cast of characters.
The game moves pretty fast in the beginning. You go from securing the hospital and searching for any survivors of this apparent massacre and woosh, you then wake up hanging from a rope surrounded by hanging corpses that have, to put it simply, seen better days.

Turns out, this is a stealth game! Just my cup of tea.

The gameplay really has more in common with The Last of Us than it does Resident Evil. The general idea is to maybe avoid combat as much as possible so you can conserve ammo, you know what I'm talking about. I'm not doing a preview here, you've all played The Last of Us.

See, the best part of the game is the options that it presents you with and the opportunities to exploit those options to interesting outcomes.

One of these options are in the form of "matches" that you can light and toss onto enemies to set them on fire and permanently kill them. Sometimes so simple can break up the monotony of endless running or endlessly fighting. Not to mention you can use these to converse ammo, as lighting an enemy on fire with any other enemies near him will cause them to all go up in flames. The best part is, pretty much every enemy aside from bosses or mini-bosses are critically weak to fire. The challenge, however, is maintaining a steady supply of matches. They aren't infinite, and you can run out if you let your inner firebug out and burn some motherfuckers. And let me tell you, it's never not fun.

Spread throughout most environments are traps. Like beartraps, tripwires, motion-detectors with bombs in them some sort of proximity alarm thing that alerts all enemies to action even though you pretty much only see it once and it doesn't truly make much sense. Anyway.

The beauty of the game is exploiting these options, and using these traps and throwable objects like bottles(Which is very reminiscent of TLOU) you could lead enemies into traps to kill or injure them, giving you the edge in the fight. You must always be mindful of your surroundings if you are expected to survive The Evil Within.

You can also disarm traps, if you don't trust yourself enough around them and when you do, you get spare parts which can be used to craft arrowheads for your "Agony Crossbow", which is just as fucking rad as it sounds.

It's kind of hard to see here just how much ass-kicking this thing can do, but take my word for it.
You've got all kinds of options with this thing. You can craft explosive bolts, harpoon bolts, freeze bolts for when your patience wears thin and you want to end a fucker. Shock bolts can stun enemies, and flash bolts can blind them.

When you level up your Harpoon Bolts to level 5, they become FLAMING harpoon bolts, and you remember earlier, how I sad these fuckers are super weak to fire? Yep. It turns every fight into a good old fashioned Krimson City BBQ. And you KNOW just how awesome those old fashioned Krimson City BBQ's got! With the Agony Crossbow, anything is possible!

As with upgrading the Agony Crossbow, you can upgrade your other weapons and even some base stats like maximum health and stamina. I went with melee because I'm an IDIOT and thought it would change something, but the only thing it's good for is stunning enemies for a few seconds so you can shoot them in the head with a gun because seriously, who brings their fists to a hatchet-sickle-torch-chainsaw fight?

The one thing that really bugs me about the game are the forced combat sequences, and boy are there quite a bit of them. You walk around feeling high and mighty because you've got 40 bullets in your revolver and 20 in your shotgun and then suddenly you've got to fend off a large number of enemies because someone needs to open a gate or something stupid and then all of the sudden you hear a distantly familiar click followed by "OUT OF AMMO?!?!11" by your character who shares your complete disbelief in what you are both experiencing. That's usually when shit hits the fan and you have to remember real quick just how useful those matches can be. Those fucking things can save your ass in more ways than a gun. Never leave home without them!

Another thing, and one that I love but others seem to hate: The letterboxing. The game is presented in some sort of letterboxed widescreen and it really, in my opinion, adds to the bleak and weary atmosphere. But some people just aren't having it.

Come on guys, really? LOOK AT THE EMOTION CONVEYED BY LETTERBOXING! You just can't get that in any old game. Learn to appreciate art.ART.
Some people go so far as to say it somehow impedes your playing, that it gets in the way of things you might be able to see but can't because of those giant black bars, which just seems crazy to me. I've beaten the game twice and there was not one single point in the game in which I was stuck because I didn't see something above or below me - in fact, I noticed I had been looking upwards and downwards more often because of the black bars. I wanted to make sure there was nothing creeping about. Because of this, I felt a lot more aware and ultimately I got more out of my experience with the letterboxing than some crazy people that would prefer to play without it with the help of mods. That's just crazy. Crazy. Okay, enough of that.

Speaking of voice acting, I gotta say it's not really doing anything for me in this game. I don't think it's bad, I just don't see any redeeming qualities. For some pretty decent names in the cast, I expected more than just "bland".

They tried really hard to get Ryan Gosling, but they had to settle for his mirror-match clone instead
Personally I liked Jackie Earle Haley's performance as Ruvik, but most of the time you only hear him through flashbacks and audio logs, so it doesn't really carry much when you eventually do meet him face to face.

More on that later, speaking of the cast, I was really surprised by a few special cameos in the game. First up, we've got this guy making a special appearance from RE4:

You know, I wasn't expecting much from his role as "Crazy torch guy who sets you on fire", but this kid blew me away!
This guy. Shinji Mikami must really love this dude's design because he's gone from SomewhereinthemiddleofSpain to wherever the fuck Krimson City is and he's STILL got it. Whatever it is, he's got it.

And the most surprising guest appearance of all time has got to be...

Wilford Brimley!! I've been a fan of this guy since I saw The Thing and let me tell you, he really knocks it out of the park as Uncle "Itchy Tasty" Jimenez. I mean really, who could have seen this coming? Way to go Tango Gameworks and especially to the man in charge, Shinji Mikami.

Now, earlier I mentioned the voice cast laying it on a little thin, and it's because of that that these characters don't really have much character. With the collectible notes and documents you find throughout the game, you get an idea these characters should maybe act a certain way, but they come off as very calm and collected, even when it seems like reality is warping right in their very faces. They just collect themselves and move on. It's strange. Very strange.

But there is one character in particular that stands out. A character that stands out in a huge way. Her name... Nurse Tatiana.

Just go ahead and pretend this is an Obama "HOPE" poster.

That's right fellas. The best companion in video game history. I hear your silent judgements. I know what you are thinking. "Best companion? Ha! That goes to Garrus! Morrigan! Fawkes! Boone! Lydia! etc etc". Well to that I have to say: GET. THE FUCK. OUT.

Nurse Tatiana has been employed at the hospital for years and with all of the things she's seen, she is EMOTIONALLY DEAD. She has nothing left to give. She sits there, yells at Sebastian Castellanos for moaning in his sleep and pestering the other patients, and she doesn't give a single fuck while she does it. The way she sits on her stool so authoritatively, filing her nails, occasionally releasing a sign so devoid of life or emotion you have to wonder if she even has a soul. But chapter after chapter, Tatiana is there for you. Reminding you to spend your green gel, or telling you how much of a worry-wort you are. She may not have a soul left, or any emotion to use to relate to you or your mission, but she's there every day you wake up. She may not give a shit, but you know she cares! And I thank her.

The boss battles in the game are also something I really enjoyed. One boss in particular seemed to reek of creative genius from the devs because of how it is introduced. You are walking along, looking for stuff, and all of the sudden you see a small chest. Oh boy! Chests! Video games! Hurray! You open the chest and you get a key that you can use to unlock doors back in the save room and gain items or green gel that will help you in your journey. The collectables are really great in that aspect. There are a ton of them to find but they actually help you out in the long run and make it fun to find them and use them to get stuff.

So you get the key from the chest and think, great, I hope there are more of them! Then later on, about a half hour or maybe longer from this point you reach an area that is LITTERED with chests. I practically jumped for joy when I saw all of them. "So many keys!!" I thought. But they wouldn't open. I thought it was a glitch in the game and actually got mad with it! So I said whatever and progressed, and it was only then that I realized what was happening... because the chests were actually a part of the area boss! All of the sudden these chests that I wanted to open desperately were forming into a huge axe wielding psychofucker wanting to kill me. It was excellent and left a lasting impression. I certainly never felt safe opening anything after that.

It's the little things that can have such an impact in this game, and again, I was more than ready to judge this game before I got my hands on it, but the second I did - something... clicked. It was almost instant. I fell in love with the game. The story, the vagueness and mystique that kept me asking more and more... And sure, the story ends without any real explanation of what the fuck happened, but there's enough evidence in the documents and through what the game doesn't tell you - but rather shows you - that you can use to form a pretty good idea of what actually happened. Either way, let's not get caught up in the purposefully left open story. That's for another time.

The atmosphere really is incredible, truthfully. Creepy and tense, with dangers hiding around every corner.

This isn't really a "professional" review, in the sense that I was never raised by writer parents and never went to writing school and learned how to write professionally. I don't know the rules of the grammatical road, but I've got my hand on the wheel, foot on the pedal, and I'm driving inside the lines. I wanted to talk about The Evil Within - because I truly enjoyed it. The things I didn't enjoy as much really didn't bother me like it did other people. Trust me, I'm not even trying to go soft on the game. I just really enjoyed this. Aside from Resident Evil Revelations, there just hasn't been any other game that I have connected to so entirely. The Evil Within has lasting appeal... jank, yes, lots of jank, but lasting appeal. I hope everyone goes out and buys this game and loves it as much as I do. Shinji Mikami is a fantastic director and I hope this does well for his studio and we can expect more The Evil Within for years and years.

My name is Ryan. I like to play video games and Dungeons and Dragons and all kinds of other cool stuff. I also like to write. This is my website, it's nothing special, but I write about topics from time to time that probably make no sense. But if you think they do make sense, then hang around and check out some other articles. My friends call them "blogs" but goddamnit I've got a URL and everything, so they're "articles".

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